Crates are ideal when you need a break from your aggressive or bratty dog or need to protect guests, or your dog needs a break. The benefit of a crate is that you can have your dog in the same room with you. However, it should not be used for more than a few hours at a time.
The crate ought to be a safe den for the dog. If your dog needs a break from people or other animals, then others should not be able to come up to the crate to bother the dog. This is particularly important to consider if there are children around. Ask family and guests to ignore the dog when the dog is in the crate.
If a crate is not a good alternative or you can’t keep people or animals away from it, move your dog to room where he can’t be bothered and children can’t open the crate door. Put a sign on the door for adults. Don’t rely on a baby gate to keep your dog in a room if you have guests your dog is likely to act aggressively towards. Dogs have been known to jump them, or chew through them. If there are children around, consider putting a lock on the door or hook and eye set up to prevent accidents.
Problems with using crates for aggressive dogs
When you have a dog that is aggressive towards you, it is understandable that you might want to punish him or her. But punishment can turn into a bad habit. And while you deserve to have a break from aggression, and deserve to feel safe, be aware that crating a dog is isolating and distancing.Too much crating can cause more problems. Ideally we want to reduce stress for our dogs, not cause more of it.
A much better alternative to improve dog aggression is following a non-confrontational treatment plan that actually helps the dog learn better ways to behave such as the one in The Dog Aggression System Every Dog Owner Needs e-book. Relying only on a crate to deal with the problem is not helping your dog to become a safer dog or happier dog to be around.
Fences, doors and windows are particularly problematic for defensive dogs, since not only do these barriers define a dog’s territorial boundary, with the potential invader just being directly on the other side with no “buffer” space, but it becomes critically important for a dog to defend the boundary particularly when the dog feels he may not be able to escape and the boundary is breeched. In some cases dog’s that cannot see through fences (doors and windows, too) will be less reactive than dogs who can.
Be aware that while some dogs become protective or territorial around their crates, others experience panic or anxiety. Some dogs might find a crate a refuge, but others see it as a trap. For those that feel trapped and anxious, crates are not good alternatives.
A paper that looked at effects of various degrees of long term confinement on adult beagle dogs noted that it “causes marked atrophic changes of the musculo-skeletal system which are accompanied by a negative calcium balance”. Dogs have social needs and that inadequate housing can lead to behavior problems. Make sure that if you are crating or otherwise isolating your dog that are spending more time with him and has an interesting and enriched environment.
Trainers who rely on excessive crating to “cure” aggression, could be relying on a psychological condition similar to “learned helplessness” or depression.
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